Previously, I discussed being a young film geek who hated Last Year at Marienbad for how it messed with my sense of what makes a good movie. Go figure: a few decades later, my favorite film of all time is the silent-era Soviet documentary The Man with a Movie Camera, with its even more challenging form and content. Its stunning editing and cinematography are accessible simply as eye candy, but are actually part of a complex mix of ideas about society, art, and technology.
I don’t love only esoteric documentaries. I’ve always enjoyed diverse film and TV genres. In my youth, I was a horror and sci-fi fan, though with no cable or VCR, so my options were limited. But my friend had cable, and, late one Saturday night, on independent channel KTVU, we saw one of the all-time great indie films, Night of the Living Dead. We were amazed by the film’s stark realism and intensity, and got some of the social commentary, most obviously the casting of the lead character as a smart, strong, attractive African-American man, in contrast to all the weak white characters trapped in the farmhouse. In my lily white rural Oregon hometown, that alone was provocative.
Since then, I’ve seen a lot of gruesome stuff. Last November, I brought my teenage son to the VFF for his first time and saw The Human Race, which turned out to be one of the more violent films I’ve ever seen (also with an unusual lead character). We liked it. He wasn’t as shocked as I had been at his age with George Romero’s zombies, but it still pushed some buttons. Maybe next I should show him Marienbad, or Man with a Movie Camera, and really blow his mind.
This post is part of a series in which I talk about independent film in a more detailed, wide-ranging, and personal way than I usually do here. And it’s a chance to hear from you. Feel free to post a comment anytime or let me know if you’d like to write a post.
By James Latham